Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Precious Time: A Necessaire and Watch, 1770

Necessaire and Watch
James Cox, 1770
The Victoria & Albert Museum

There’s a fine line between absolutely hideous and truly beautiful. This object sits firmly on that line. I can’t quite decide if I like it or not. It’s certainly ornate and regally-made. With its Gold-mounted agate casket, settings of pearls and paste gems, clockwork mechanism and sounding carillon, it is a work of art. But, perhaps it’s a bit too much, and a little confused. Adorned with shimmering insects and resting on feet of gilt elephants, this necessaire with a watch surmount offers a lot of visual stimulation which makes it simultaneously gorgeous and frightening.

This is the work of the jeweler and goldsmith James Cox who was celebrated for his lavish objets de vertu, and applauded for his constant inclusion of automata and watch movements. The uppermost portion of the necessaire contains a drawer which opens to reveal a range of personal articles such as tweezers, scissors, a pencil and penknife. There’s some debate as to whether or not Cox made all the objects in this necessaire, but he did produce a good many of them.

In the late Eighteenth Century, when this was produced, the growing upper-class showed their wealth by indulging in opulent objects such as this. This was more of a status symbol than it was truly practical. And, while it’s certainly overwrought, it is beautiful in its own way.

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